Boylston Station, Boston

The Boylston subway station, at the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets in Boston, on August 12, 1897. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The station in 2015:

The first photo captures the ending of one era and the beginning of another.  Just a few weeks after the photo was taken, the trolleys that are seen here on congested Tremont Street would be moved underground, giving Boston the distinction of having the country’s first subway tunnel.  The first two stations were Park Street, just over a quarter mile to the north, and this one here at Boylston Street, in the southeast corner of Boston Common.  The project was a major civil engineering milestone, but it didn’t come without tragedy.  At this location earlier in the year, a leaking gas line in the work area under the intersection caused an explosion that killed six people.  The explosion is explained further in this post, which features photos that were taken diagonally across the street from here.

Today, the view really hasn’t changed too much.  The trolleys on the Green Line are still running under this intersection, the distinctive station entrances are still here, as is Boston Common in the background.  Even in the 19th century, this intersection of Boylston and Tremont streets was busy, necessitating the police officer in the left center of the 1897 photo.  The slow shutter speed of the camera has blurred most of the traffic around him, but he is standing perfectly still, posing for the photographer as trolleys, carriages, and pedestrians pass by.  It is still a major intersection today, albeit without the nostalgia of a 19th century officer directing traffic on a cobblestone street.

Boylston Street from Gloucester Street, Boston

Looking west on Boylston Street from the corner of Gloucester Street, on August 6, 1912.  Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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Boylston Street in 2015:

The first photo here appears to be documenting the early stages of the work on the Boylston Street Subway, today’s Green Line of the MBTA.  Prior to 1912, the present-day Green Line was only underground from North Station to Arlington, emerging onto Boylston Street at the Boston Public Garden, as seen in this post.  From there, it ran through the Back Bay in the center of Boylston Street, as seen here.  Because of increasing congestion, though, the trolley line was moved underground in 1914.  The new tunnel ran from Arlington Street to Kenmore Square, where it came to the surface in the median of Commonwealth Avenue just east of the square.  I’m not entirely sure what the workers are doing here, but they appear to be doing some sort of excavation on the tunnel – notice the planks in the otherwise dirt road, which probably cover the work that was being done.  In the meantime, the trolleys needed to continue running, so the 1912 scene shows a Reservoir-bound car (today’s “C” Line) passing through the construction area.

Today, Green Line trains still run under this spot in the tunnel that the 1912 workers were building, and on the surface not much has changed on the right-hand side.  Along the mile-long stretch of Boylston Street in the Back Bay, the north side of the street is primarily late 19th and early 20th century low-rise construction, while the south side is almost entirely new.  This contrast can be seen here, as nearly all of the buildings from 1912 are still standing on the right, including the three-story commercial building in the foreground.  It was built in 1905, and in the first photo the corner storefront is occupied by The Henley-Kimball Company, a car dealership that sold Hudson cars.  It was one of many car dealerships along Boylston Street; an awning further down the street advertises for Chalmers, and there are also window signs for Stutz Motor Company and Michelin Tires.

The left (south) side of Boylston Street, however, is significantly different.  In 1912, there were no buildings here; instead, this area was the site of a large rail yard for the Boston & Albany Railroad.  The yard took up the south side of Boylston for three blocks, from Exeter Street to Hereford Street, but over time the land became too valuable to simply use for a rail yard.  The Massachusetts Turnpike now runs through the site of the former yard, and a number of buildings have been built on top of it, including the Hines Convention Center, which can be seen on the far left of the 2015 photo.

Boston University East, Boston

The Boston University East MBTA station on Commonwealth Avenue, around 1939. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The scene in 2015:

The first photo shows passengers boarding a Boston Elevated Railway trolley at the Boston University East station, in front of the Charles Hayden Memorial Building at Boston University.  It appears to be a Type 4 trolley, which was found on Boston’s many streetcar lines from 1911 until 1950.  Most of those lines have long since been converted into buses, but the line along Commonwealth Avenue is still in use, as the MBTA “B” branch of the Green Line.

The Charles Hayden Memorial Building in the background of both photos was completed in 1939, and it provides an earliest possible date for the photo, which the City of Boston Archives estimated as being in the 1930s.  The building was the first to be built on BU’s Charles River Campus, and just over two years after it opened the United States entered World War II, postponing other construction projects on the campus.  The other buildings along this section of Commonwealth Avenue would not be completed until 1948, but today this area between the Massachusetts Turnpike to the south and the Charles River to the north has become the school’s main campus.

Public Garden Incline, Boston (2)

Trolleys at the Public Garden Incline at the corner of Boylston and Arlington Streets in Boston, around 1910-1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2014:


These were taken from near the location of the photos in this post, showing trolleys entering and emerging from the Tremont Street Subway onto Boylston Street.  The car on the right-hand side is returning from Brookline Village, and the one on the left is heading toward Huntington Avenue, along the modern-day E Branch of the Green Line.  This car is particularly intriguing, because one of the flyers on the front reads “Baseball to-day American League Huntington Avenue,” The exact date of this photo isn’t clear, and the Library of Congress estimates that it was taken between 1910 and 1920, but this little flyer indicates that it couldn’t have been any later than 1911, the last year that the Red Sox played at Huntington Avenue before moving to Fenway Park.  Many of the people on the trolley are probably fans heading to the game, and will likely see future Red Sox legends such Smoky Joe Wood, Tris Speaker, and Harry Hooper.  Today, Red Sox fans still travel along this route to get to the game, although the incline that the trolleys once emerged from has been closed for a century, and no evidence remains on the surface that it ever existed.

Public Garden Incline, Boston (1)

Trolleys entering and exiting the Tremont Street Subway at its southern end at the Boston Public Garden, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2014:


When the Tremont Street Subway opened in 1897 as the first subway in the country, trolleys ran underground from downtown all the way until the corner of Arlington and Boylston, where the tracks emerged here and continued along Boylston Street to points west.  The three cars in the first photo represent three different routes, with the one on the far right returning from Newton, the one ahead of it coming from Roxbury, and the one in distance is heading toward Huntington Avenue.  Today’s Green Line still has four different branches, all that is left of what was once a much larger streetcar system.  The subway portal itself closed in 1914, when the subway was extended under Boylston Street to Kenmore, and no evidence remains on the surface to suggest that trolleys once emerged here from underground.

Park Street Station, Boston

Tremont Street during construction of the Park Street subway station in 1897. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Park Street Station after completion, taken in 1906. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Park Street Station in 2014:


As mentioned in previous posts, the Tremont Street Subway (today’s MBTA Green Line) was the first subway in the country, and Park Street was one of the first two stations, along with Boylston.  The station opened in 1897, and helped to relieve congestion on Tremont Street by removing the trolleys from the surface, as seen in the first photo.  Today, the station is still there, as is Park Street Church behind it.

See this post and this post for a few photos of the interior of the station.